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Earth Day, celebrated each yet on April 22, has been an annual event on the eco calendar since 1970. Even back then, 53 years ago, it was clear that action was needed to protect our environment, and this movement has only grown in strength since then!

Earth Day, which was created by Democratic US Senator Gaylord Nelson, first took place on April 22, 1970. At that time, there were no rules and regulations about protecting the environment doing business or industrial activities, so the Senator introduced this eco-awareness event as a way to make people take note and be aware of the damage being done to the planet. Peace activist John McConnell had proposed a day to “honor the Earth” at UNESCO in 1969, and from this Senator Nelson took the bull by the horns – environmental activism at its finest.

The first Earth Day – 1970

The very first Earth Day was actually limited to nationwide coverage across the United States, and took place as a “teach-in” – this is a practical way for experts and lecturers to engage with audience, and different to seminars in that discussion can be varied and audience led, rather than sticking to a specific scope or one topic.

Earth Day #1 was supported by many people across the country, over 20 million in fact, and remains the largest 1 day protest in history. The United Auto Workers (UAW) Union was a key supporter and has been attributed to being a driving force in making the day a success.

Events that took place on Earth Day #1 included:

  • Seed planting
  • Teach-ins on various environmental topics including pollution, air quality and toxic waste dumps
  • Keynote speeches in cities such as New York and Philadelphia

Why was Earth Day so popular?

In 1969, there had been a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, killing thousands of birds, animals and sea creatures. There was a national outcry, with major newspapers all headlining the news as well as radio and TV coverage. One year to the day, on 28 Jan, 1970, Environmental Rights Day was created with the Declaration of Environmental Rights. This heightened the public’s awareness even further of the issues facing the world around us and created a lot of passion for trying to halt any further damage.

How has Earth Day evolved?

Over the years, Earth Day has evolved and grown in popularity; it went global in 1990, reaching over 140 countries and mobilising over 200 million individuals. Earth Day had hit the world stage, boosting recycling efforts and paving the way for the first UN Earth Summit in 1992. Senator Nelson was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom as Earth Day founder in 1995.

Ove the years, various groups, companies and celebrities have publicly supported Earth Day, including Warner Bros. Records, Chuck Berry, Jim Whittaker and the National Toxics Campaign.

Earth Day 2023

As Earth Day 2023 approaches, focus has pinpointed to “partnership for the planet” – the approach of acting boldly, innovating broadly and implementing equitably. The slogan, “everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable”, is designed to make us all aware of the impact we have on the planet.

Actions being highlighted this year to help the Earth include:

  • Planting trees
  • Reducing the use of single use items
  • Pushing action on climate literacy with global youth groups
  • Encouraging conservation and biodiversity
  • Focusing on regenerative agriculture
  • Educating everyone as to the dangers our planet faces
  • Encouraging sustainable fashion choices
  • Sign ups for the Earth Day Volunteer Corps

Earth Day 2023 is being supported by some of the biggest names in the eco-field, including the UN Environment Programme, CCAN, Connect4Climate, Airmid Institute and Citizen’s Climate Lobby.

Why is Earth Day so important?

Earth Day is a focal point on the calendar for raising awareness of the problems the Earth faces, and how we as a global community can work to negate and resolve these issues. However, it also honours past achievements of activists and the environmental movement as a whole.

Whilst Earth Day is by no means the only event that serves to promote eco-activism, it is one of the first and also one of the biggest.